May 14, 2012
Address letters to:
Mayor Vincent C. Gray Councilman Tommy Wells Council Chairman Kwame Brown At-Large Council members Vincent Orange, David Catania, Phil Mendelson, and Michael Brown Parsons Brinckerhoff District Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration
We would like to express our opinion on the proposed project by CSX to expand the Virginia Avenue railroad tunnel. CSX has proposed to adapt the current rail tunnel to allow for both an additional rail track and for double-stacked trains within the tunnel. Among the current proposed build options is the option to dig an open trench the entire width and length of Virginia Avenue from 2nd St., SE to 11th St., SE to widen and deepen the existing tunnel under the roadway, and construct temporary train tracks in an open trench to use during construction. The project is currently undergoing environmental review under NEPA and historic preservation review under Section 106.
Our primary concerns relate to the safety, health, and quality of life (e.g. noise, mobility, property value, and aesthetic considerations) of our great diversity of residents; the economic and physical well-being of our businesses, parks, religious institutions, homes, and historic buildings; and the preservation of north-south access across Virginia Avenue for all existing modes of transportation.
Residents on both the north and south sides of the tunnel use and cross Virginia Avenue daily to walk, bike, bus, and drive their children to school, enjoy recreational amenities, work, worship, eat, and shop. Building a trench between the emerging neighborhood south of Virginia Avenue and the more established areas north of it will instantly sever the ties that we have worked tirelessly to build.
We are also deeply concerned that both construction to expand the tunnel and the subsequent increase in rail traffic -- including the transport of hazardous materials -- would put people, homes, businesses, and fragile historic resources at risk both during the proposed construction process and during operation after the proposed construction is completed. We are especially concerned about any build option that would allow trains to run during construction -- especially in an open trench -- or that would place a new tunnel a closer distance to homes and other buildings than exists today.
Therefore, after a thorough review of the official project concept alternatives presented by the CSX project team, we strongly believe that the best options for our community are for CSX to
either leave the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in its current state (Concept 1) -- with the suggestion that if this option were chosen that the tunnel would be fully maintained for the safety of both the trains below and the communities above, or to reroute additional train traffic outside the District of Columbia (Concepts 9 and 10 -- as recommended by the National Capital Planning Commission, Concept 11, and other possibilities for alternative routes), instead of in an expanded Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
In the event that construction does come to our community, it is absolutely imperative that the health and safety of our many residents, the economic and physical well-being of our businesses, parks, religious institutions, homes, and historic buildings, and the north-south access for all existing modes of transportation be preserved and enhanced. In that event, we will work together with CSX and government agencies to ensure that our many interests are protected, and that our community is left stronger, safer, quieter, and more seamlessly connected than it is today.
Thank you for your consideration.
CC: National Park Service National Capital Planning commission Navy Yard Federal Railroad Administration Commission of Fine Arts DC State Historic Preservation Office
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